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Dr. James Holmes: The Naval Diplomat

Stay the Course on Reinventing the US Marine Corps to Fight China

US Marine Corps
Cpl. Ryan M. Rosemore engages targets during the 3rd Marine Division Annual Squad Competition December 7, 2017, at the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan. The squad competition is conducted to test and compare each unit to see which is the fittest for combat. The squads are with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment; 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and Combat Assault Battalion. Rosemore, a Aitkin, Minnesota native, is a rifleman assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. The Hawaii-based battalion is forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program.

Revolt of the Generals: Former marine officer, secretary of the navy, and senator James Webb took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal late last month to announce that “the gloves have now come off” in a burgeoning feud between the U.S. Marine Corps old guard and the current leadership. According to Senator Webb, twenty-two retired four-star generals recently cosigned a “nonpublic letter to concern” to General David Berger, the serving commandant. Politico reports that the group includes General Joe Dunford, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with a who’s-who of prominent names. To date, though, it’s been non-four-star advocates who have taken their concerns to print. Retired lieutenant general Paul Van Riper aimed a blow at Berger’s endeavors in the Marine Corps Times, former assistant secretary of defense Bing West held forth in National Review, and of course there’s Webb himself.

Webb reports that the generals attempted to “engage in a quiet dialogue” with the commandant, protesting his effort to remake the service to wage island warfare in company with the U.S. Navy fleet. They object chiefly to modest manpower cuts, primarily to infantry units; to the elimination of tanks from the order of battle; and to the replacement of traditional gun artillery with guided missiles optimal for sinking ships. Marine Corps leadership sees the changes as necessary to adapt the service to the battlefield it’s most likely to bestride, and has sought to redirect scarce funding from legacy systems into new acquisitions. Berger’s critics haven’t gotten their way, so they’ve taken off the gloves and gone public with their opposition. Fine. Let’s review the commentary currently on offer and see whether they land any haymakers.

Not so far.

Ideas matter. Yet the critics are so concerned with preserving the current Marine Corps force structure that they make little effort—in print, at any rate—to engage with the strategic thinking impelling Berger’s reforms. They likewise seem indifferent to the strategic environment marines confront in the Indo-Pacific, the Pentagon’s priority theater, and to the main challenger there, namely China. Top leadership has to designate an opponent to craft a strategy that stands much chance of success. Foresight anchors a strategy in reality. After World War I, when no new seaborne antagonist had yet come into view, U.S. Navy captain Harry Yarnell, a key member of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Planning Division, wisecracked that war planning with no enemy in sight is like “trying to design a machine tool without knowing whether it is going to manufacture hairpins or locomotives.”

The same goes for force design, which is about fielding the right implements to carry out a war plan. The critics seem to be demanding that the Marine Corps be an all-purpose machine tool that exists independent of the opponents it’s supposed to defeat and the surroundings where it will operate. But as Yarnell might reply, sage toolmakers fit the force structure to the circumstances rather than forge the tool and assume the circumstances will conform to it. If you divorce force design from the strategic and operational environment as it exists, you may end up manufacturing hairpins when national leaders clamor for locomotives. You remove any impetus to modify or reinvent the force as the environment changes around it. And you fail to set a standard for measuring the efficacy of change once forced upon the leadership. The institution remains static.

Stasis kills in times when adaptability is at a premium. Times such as ours.

Senator Webb is having none of that. In his words, the U.S. Marine Corps must be a “homogenous, all-encompassing ‘force in readiness’ that can go anywhere and fight anyone on any level short of nuclear war.” Rather than construct the force for the likeliest or most forbidding contingencies it might face, in other words, the corps should maintain a one-size-fits-all order of battle—a general-purpose force structure supposedly fitting for all contingencies at all times.

It’s worth noting that U.S. law doesn’t mandate a “homogeneous, all-encompassing ‘force-in-readiness’” suitable for any situation under the sun. These are Webb’s words. (Incidentally, “force in readiness” is a recurring phrase for Berger’s opponents. But as Van Riper recalls, this is a slogan drummed into junior marines, not a mandate set forth in U.S. law. It’s also unclear why detractors think Berger espouses a force not in readiness for missions entrusted to it from on high.) Title 10 of the U.S. Code, the directive that sets forth the composition and functions of the Marine Corps, states that the service “shall be so organized as to include not less than three combat divisions and three air wings,” along with capabilities necessary to support such a corps.

Three divisions, three air wings. That’s as far as Congress goes toward mandating a specific force structure for the Marine Corps.

The purpose of such a force? To “provide fleet marine forces of combined arms, together with supporting air components, for service with the fleet in the seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and for the conduct of such land operations as may be essential to the prosecution of a naval campaign” (my emphasis). In other words, the corps is supposed to be a maritime fighting force and an integral part of combined-arms operations to deny, win, and exploit command of the sea. Naval warfare comes first. Other missions—urban combat often comes up in commentary condemning Berger’s vision—are lesser-included missions, performed on a not-to-interfere basis with fleet operations.

And this hierarchy is proper. At its most basic, strategy is about setting and enforcing priorities while devising ways to use finite resources to accomplish the most important goals. Other functions are secondary. Lawmakers are explicit about their priorities. Title 10 allows for marines to execute functions subsidiary to naval warfare while making clear that “these additional duties may not detract from or interfere with the operations for which the Marine Corps is primarily organized.”

So much for my general critique of the critique. On to specifics. Again, it’s odd that the critics say little about the strategic concept spurring Berger to try to remake the Marine Corps. That may be because force structure is what they care about, and they regard the pre-Berger order of battle as sacrosanct. It’s certainly their baseline for inveighing against rebalancing the service’s capabilities. They fret about numbers and widgets rather than countenance the possibility that galloping change to the strategic environment warrants a fresh approach.

Senator Webb manages to suggest that General Berger’s strategic concept is “insufficiently tested or intrinsically flawed,” and that Berger is pushing “bad ideas,” without saying what the concept is. That’s not much of a rebuttal. General Van Riper goes a bit deeper, observing that the commandant wants to outfit three “marine littoral regiments” to “support naval campaigns for sea denial and sea control by firing anti-ship missiles.” This is true, if oversimplified and abstract from the strategic environment. The basic concept is that marines will shuttle from Pacific island to Pacific island, mainly along the first island chain. Marines on the islands will work with the fleet, affiliated joint air and ground forces, and allies to deny hostile coastal powers—read China or Russia—access to the islands, the straits that lie between, and the high seas beyond. Doing so would impose steep economic and military costs on prospective foes. Knowing this, Beijing or Moscow could well desist from aggression. If not, they would fight from a position of disadvantage.

This is the basis for the family of operational concepts the Marine Corps leadership has unveiled in recent years, which go by such titles as Force Design 2030, Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment. Some friends of the corps bewail the cultural dimension of island-chain warfare, objecting that this novel mode of operations departs from decades of maneuver warfare. And so it may. It is a form of blockade duty that fuses nautical geography with military might with alliance politics. To reprise the language of Title 10, it demands that marines seize and defend island bases useful for barricading China within the first island chain. Holding real estate is a tactically defensive function—but some of the greats of strategic theory regard strategic offense coupled with tactical defense as the strongest form of warfare.

It’s worth remembering, moreover, that blockade is a time-honored method of naval warfare designed to take a hostile force off the board until it can be brought to battle. Ironically, worries about abandoning maneuver echo U.S. Army complaints about the Marine Corps’ “combined action platoon” program in Vietnam, which emplaced marine garrisons in South Vietnamese villages to fend off Vietcong insurgents and protect what mattered most: the populace. Army overseers scuttled this promising program, pronouncing it static, defensive-minded, and inglorious. They preferred offensive operations aimed at closing with and destroying enemy main forces.

In their vain quest for decisive battle, U.S. forces left the South Vietnamese populace—the Vietcong’s main source of supplies—exposed to insurgent depredations. Sometimes doctrine and treasured cultural preferences have to be put on hold for the sake of strategic success. If joint maritime forces can hold the line along the first island chain, denying the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and Air Force access to waters and skies around the islands, they will position themselves to wrest maritime command from the foe. There will be time for the fleet—and the fleet marine force—to maneuver against the PLA within the China seas once the first island chain is secure.

For his part Secretary West gets specific about strategy, but most of what he writes is garbled. He contends that “a few years ago,” policymakers ordained a “pivot” to the Pacific after they discovered that “China was building forts on atolls in the South China Sea.” The marine commandant “immediately proclaimed a counter,” envisioning staging small bodies of troops on “unoccupied islands in the South China Sea,” from which “they could then fire missiles to sink Chinese warships.” Chief among the “mortal flaws in this anti-ship strategy,” opines West, is that “China has ‘pivoted’ toward Taiwan, far out of range of Marine missiles in the South China Sea.” That means “the Marines are out of position.” He concludes that “there are few battlefields where anti-ship missiles . . . will be used,” while faulting Commandant Berger for “ignoring history.”

Where to start? For one thing, West has the sequence of events wrong. The pivot to the Pacific was an Obama administration initiative launched late in 2011, by means of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy article on “America’s Pacific Century.” (It arguably goes back even further, to the second Bush administration, although Obama administration officials gave the pivot its name.) The Pentagon made the pivot formal early in 2012, albeit rebranding it a “rebalance” to the region. Whatever the label, this strategic shift was not specific to the South China Sea. Only in 2013 did Washington and its Asian partners discover that Chinese engineers had begun manufacturing artificial islands in the South China Sea. So the pivot came before—and wasn’t a hasty response to—Beijing’s island-building campaign.

For another, West has the content of Berger’s ideas wrong. Like the pivot, the concept prompting the commandant’s reforms is neither specific to the South China Sea nor driven by Beijing’s island fastnesses there. Assailing South China Sea bases represents a subset of the strategy at most. In reality the strategy envisions rigging a “Great Wall in reverse,” a barrier along the first island chain, to obstruct Chinese access to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Commentators such as yours truly tend to concentrate on the northerly and middle arcs of the first island chain—say, from Japan through the northern Philippines. We point out that joint forces ensconced on and around the islands could bar access to the high seas for the PLA Navy and Air Force, not to mention the Chinese merchant fleet. Access denial would exact colossal economic and military costs from China.

Others take a wider view. In 2013 a team of RAND researchers confirmed the feasibility of deploying missiles to close East and Southeast Asian straits. In 2015, in a similar vein, Andrew Krepinevich, a former director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), proposed a strategy of “archipelagic defense” ranging all around the island chain. In 2019 a team from CSBA urged the allies to “tighten the chain” around China.

Etc. These strategic concepts all make sense, even while differing on details. None was precipitated by the island-building campaign, or makes reducing PLA bases within the China seas its primary goal. Nor, again, does the South China Sea constitute the central focus of Berger’s ideas. Marines will not be out of position to close the straits because they will be in place where needed along the island chain, overlooking the straits. Look at your map, as Franklin Roosevelt liked to say. You will notice that anti-ship missiles positioned on the islands have the reach to overshadow the straits—especially when used in conjunction with joint sea and air forces prowling nearby waters and skies. An allied Great Wall in reverse, backed up by mobile heavy forces patrolling the Western Pacific to close any breaches in the wall, would be poised to give China a very bad day in wartime.

Best to get recent history right before accusing others of ignoring history.

The one telling point the critics have made thus far is that Berger’s strategic concept needs to be vetted through rigorous analysis and wargaming. The most elegant concept is a wish if it can’t be executed. It’s hard for us denizens of the unclassified world to judge with confidence whether classified studies or games have ratified the island-warfare concept, or whether reductions to Marine Corps infantry or traditional weapon systems run undue risks. Ergo, the commandant and his advisers should take this part of the generals’ critique to heart. They should ask themselves candidly whether testing has shown that island-chain warfare is the right concept and that the force structure they envision represents the right machine tool for the job. If so, they should use their findings and recommendations to convince administration magnates, and especially Congress, to make the necessary procurements.

I believe this has happened, but only insiders can know for sure.

Will the critics get their way by resorting to bareknuckles PR tactics? I doubt it. They seem to think Commandant Berger has been circumventing political oversight to make peremptory changes to the Marine Corps. But another retired marine, Frank Hoffman of the National Defense University, reminds Politico that Berger has not somehow gone rogue. Hoffman points out that the commandant’s scheme has “been through the requirements-based system, it’s been through the Joint Staff, through [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] and through Congress twice, so it’s not like the Pentagon or Congress were derelict in oversight.” In some cases, notably that of a light amphibious transport to ferry missile-armed marines from island to island, Berger has not—yet—gotten his way. Lawmakers have voiced skepticism toward some elements of the proposed force structure, and what they say goes.

The revolt of the generals is welcome insofar as it keeps the sea services on their toes as they merge themselves into a single fighting force animated by a cohesive vision. Devil’s advocates combat groupthink and keep us honest. But let’s not take what they say on authority—never mind all those stars.

A 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and a Nonresident Fellow at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation & Future Warfighting, Marine Corps University. The views voiced here are his alone.

Written By

James Holmes holds the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and served on the faculty of the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. A former U.S. Navy surface-warfare officer, he was the last gunnery officer in history to fire a battleship’s big guns in anger, during the first Gulf War in 1991. He earned the Naval War College Foundation Award in 1994, signifying the top graduate in his class. His books include Red Star over the Pacific, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2010 and a fixture on the Navy Professional Reading List. General James Mattis deems him “troublesome.”

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Sam McGowan

    April 13, 2022 at 8:39 pm

    Well, Webb is a Marine who knows what he’s talking about. Holmes is a sailor.

  2. T.A. Ferguson

    April 13, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    Berger’s plans are fine, so long as the PLA doesn’t use small, low-yield tactical nuclear weapons as a first strike on these island detachments/Littoral Regiments.

    To assume the PLA (or Russia, for that matter) won’t use small, low-yield tactical nuclear cruise missiles unflinchingly as a part of their overall theatre planning would be tragically and catastrophically wrong, the sort of wrong that will be discussed for centuries.

  3. Slack

    April 13, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Hold your HORSESHES !!!

    The US Army ( army of the potomac) wants to be right at the very front or be given highest paid seat ticket ehen it comes to war with china.

    The US military is expected to have its first operational hypersonic wunderwaffe weapins ready by 2025 (hopefully, optimistically) and at same time be able to forward base them or forward deploy them.

    Thus by 2025 or perhaps early 2026, china will have its eyes literally staring at US Army land fires in the form of hypersonic missiles mounted on TEL movers in olaces like taiwan, south korea and off the mainland coasts.

    MARINES ??? Whatcha they gonna do as hypers streak thitter overhead? Clap?

  4. John

    April 13, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    Interesting view from a Naval officer explaining the USMC mission. Since blockading China would prevent the U.S. from receiving 75% of everything we noe depend on. Hows that going to work?

  5. Resourcingcriticalpaths

    April 13, 2022 at 10:29 pm

    The problem with the concept is the lack of key enablers. To employ EABO, a CCMD must be able to gain access to a host nation that is willing to risk receiving kinetic strikes for hosting the Marines…we just got rid of MCSCG (the school that taught Marines how to conduct security cooperation and assist in gaining that access through mil to mil engagement). The video doesn’t match the audio. Additionally, the concept relies on a USN that prioritizes the Marines as a fleet asset. This is in question with the fact that amphibs are not prioritized (unsure if we will have three ship ARG/MEUs in the future) and the LAW is unfunded…meaning no sustainment for forward deployed Marines. Lastly, there is no guarantee that the munitions required to make EABO a credible combat force (NSM) will be available enmass. Great concept…unfortunately, there are too many false assumptions made that lead to a lack of feasibility in the plan.

  6. Hammer

    April 13, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    I love this thoughtful input from a guy who hasn’t spent a moment of his life as a Marine. I will accept analysis for or against the Marine Corps from the Marine Corps. As much as I hate to say it in order to combat China in the pacific theater General Bergers new force design does address the situation. However, I believe once they get into the logistics, OPSEC, counter intuitive, planning, personnel management and basically everything else that seems to have been slightly overlooked they will deem that the strategy is not that easy to accomplish. I believe the MC should remain Americas 911 force and have all elements of a MAGTAF but it is very obvious that funding will not allow the MC to be the MC.

  7. GENERAL MEOW PUTIN

    April 13, 2022 at 11:24 pm

    YOU PEOPLE ARE MORONS. THE US MILITARY DOES NOT STAND A CHANCE AGAINST CHINA AND RUSSIA. THEY WILL GET WIPED OUT. BUNCH OF DUMB LIBERAL IDIOTS MAKING FANTASY STRATEGIES. YOU MORONS COULD NOT EVEN BEAT TOWEL HEADS IN AFGHANISTAN. WHAT A JOKE OF A GOVERNMENT.

  8. Joe Tajc

    April 14, 2022 at 2:45 am

    I seem to recall we had Marine Defense Battalions prior to WWII who acquitted themselves quite well. One was stationed in Iceland, one on Midway, part of one on Wake (which quite feasibly could have held that island if at full strength), and several others on other islands. They were gradually phased out as the war progressed into purely offensive operations. I just only hope that the Commandant’s plan allows for adequately sized units for these garrisons. These small “litteral” units I’ve read about seem quite inadequate when taking into account such attritions as sickness, leave, injuries or other casualties.

  9. Byron Merritt

    April 14, 2022 at 7:13 am

    I’m yelling u what Joe n commie harris. Leave my military alone. Get the hiv out I wouldn’t work on em ad a medic or pj. That’s just 1 mote thing look got. Drop messing up out corps you old fool!!! My gof we need TRUMP back ASAP!!!

  10. John

    April 14, 2022 at 11:39 am

    It also appears there is an underpinning of what none are saying out loud. Berger has been just as interested in making the MC into a safe space which arguably regardless of any force readiness theory has and will compromise the MC effectiveness and war fighting capabilities.

  11. Mac

    April 14, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    Gents, name calling is an admission of the lost argument. Mr. Holmes makes excellent point in defense of the strategy of Force Design 2030.
    -I would happily allow my adversary to over-extend his logistics and combat power, allowing him to tire, expend assets and prevent his ability to mass forces or combat power.
    -Choking out an enemy government without having to engage in numerical overmatch against a drastically numerically superior force is just good (warfighting) business. -Close combat sucks, but strangling the critical vulnerability of your enemy (his economy) just makes sense.
    -Smarter, not harder was something paraphrased on the walls of the barracks at Quantico a while back.
    -Out of curiosity, if logistical transport is of concern, with an enemy approaching the island chain, what’s the P(sub k) and cubic footage/tonnage of a Naval Strike Missile vs. existing inventory weapon systems?
    -Would you rather sink him and drown his forces or fight him toe to toe on the beach?
    -If armor is your concern, how many Javelins can I fit in the same cubic space/gross tonnage space as a single Abrams?
    -There will be plenty of time and opportunity to locate, close with and destroy the remnants. Let’s make sure the LCpls on the line have a chance to win in the end. -Logistics, lethality and brains are going to win this fight.
    -Resource the damn plan and move out smartly.

    “I’m too old, too slow and too fat to fight you, so I’ll just kill you and get it over with…”

    • LARRY

      April 29, 2022 at 1:43 am

      1) Sound (IMHO) Operational concepts didn’t require unsound (IMHO) force design changes. It could have been done under existing force design. You say you want to dispatch platoon sized FARPs to remote islands, then train it and do it. Nothing had to change in force design. You say you want Naval Strike Fires, then integrate the NSM onto existing HIMARs and AH-1Z assets.

      2) Surface connectors remain a massive material gap, for which the Commandant’s proposal (LAW) seems incredibly weak.

  12. At least I'll die as a Marine!

    April 14, 2022 at 1:17 pm

    I seem to remember advanced basing being a concept of the Corps from the beginning of the Twentieth Century, maybe even before. It was put into place in the years before World War Two with Marines on Wake Island, Midway, Guam and American Samoa. Maybe as the other Commenter said Wake could have held out if brought to full strength, maybe so, maybe not? We’ll never know, because it wasn’t reinforced because it was attacked by first a smaller force, which failed and then by a larger force who got the job done. We spent a good portion of the War retaking them. I have many questions,and not a lot of answers. How are they resupplied, The concept requires them to hide from adversary’s, where on a small reef, island or atoll does this happen? I see these as single use asset. The Corps most important pact with it’s Marines is ” No Marine left behind! ” How would this work. Are the Marines expendable assets? I don’t see them as being able to survive once they snipe at Adversary’s one time. They’d be left hung out to dry! Also the new Amphibious Assault Vehicles remind me of lightly armed versions of Lav’s or the Army’s Strikers. What happened with the Expeditionary Vehicle? The minute it had teething problems it was scrapped. It was at least armed more like an Infantry Fighting Vehicle. I see getting rid of Tanks as an oversight. Why, when we have to retake these advanced bases is when we’ll need them. The answer seems to be the Army has lots of Tanks?! They have lots of Missiles too? This seems to me that the Corps is moving to a different strategy where the Army could easily do the job the Marines want to do?

  13. Chris

    April 14, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    I believe all of this pushback is #1 warranted and #2 good for the future of the Corps. Warranted, because I believe we failed to properly lay out the full mission set for the Marine Corps, completely focused only on the MLR mission. Missing is a solid dialogue that reminds us all that it is still ‘win the nations battles (crisis response)’ for the rest of us. The narrative has been lost and this lack of proper messaging (and frankly understanding within the ranks of the Corps) create this perception generating the angst. The MLR is not how we will fight a Pacific threat, it is how we will ‘compete’ with that threat every day outside of combat operations. When we shift to a combat role, the MLR will largely be irrelevant, aside from it has allowed us to develop capabilities that will be required, employed by the conventional MAGTF. It seems to me entirely possible that once new systems are actually fielded, the MLR will become a SPMAGTF Option…..not a standing organization. The dialogue is critical to our wider understanding of what these changes actually mean. If you buy we are in the Pacific fight primarily, not sure how you make a big case why the tank deactivation wasn’t a good thing. Change isn’t bad, unit is uncomfortable and comes with risks.

  14. 22 yr jarhead

    April 14, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    A “black shoe” naval officer giving advice to Marines? Go tighten the mainsail or whatever.

  15. EVA-04

    April 14, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    For starters, Webb is a backstabbing doucebag who will do anything to whore himself for publicity. Simply being a Marine once doesn’t entirely prevent you from being a jerk later in life (see Murtha, John for further examples).

    As far as the Marine remodel goes, it’s quite funny to hear complaints about how the Marines are straying from their “traditional” role when their perception of that traditional role seems to be as Second Banana to the Army. When the USMC finds itself as the dismounts for an Army that failed to invest in its own infantry capabilities, there’s an imbalance in the Force.

    Meanwhile, we’ve endured 25 years of littoral combat and threats from piracy to sea-based attacks, to the latest Chinese attempts to either buy islands or manufacture them from dredged up sea bottom dirt. Guess what? That’s where the domain of battle is and will be. And you need a force dedicated for that especially considering how dependent we really are on maritime security.

    EABO isn’t a theory: we spent much of WWII fighting this way with much lower tech. It’s about time we had a force who’s domain was in the Littorals, and the Marines have been there before anyone else.

  16. Matt Schilling

    April 14, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    How is it a credible threat for one side of the biggest nation-to-nation trade to say to the other side, “We’re going to shut you down and starve you out!” Isn’t that the equivalent of murder/suicide?

    How long would it be before many of our allies start wailing and moaning… and looking to abandon ship, if we walled in China’s economic output?

    If you’re going to conduct a successful siege, you’ll have to be better supplied than the enemy you’re besieging. You’ll have to survive without them better than they can survive without you.

    The more credible plan is to crank out (at least 150) B-21’s as quickly as possible, then demonstrate the ability to eliminate the PLAN in a weekend.

  17. ewwww....rah?

    April 14, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    meh. USMC has been doing the Army’s job for 20+ years (hell, maybe forever and that’s just part of the American bargain)…that Marines would want to specialize, focus on the future, and stop making up for the myriad shortfalls of our mediocre USA should surprise no one. Berger has indeed experienced modern combat, a nuanced whiff at the staff-level perhaps, but he saw enough and like everyone, noted how poorly trained and equipped the force was for the Peace Support Operations tasks at hand, and he’s smart enough to see the writing on the wall with the future. One honest step toward a solution would be to turn the bulk of the conventional US Army into a general purpose DOD support force (think walmart-amazon-fedex…with berets), eliminate their “combat arms”, most of their HQ’s and use part of the manpower/money saved to put more Marines through boot camp, SOI and into new infantry battalions. Ditching old hand-me-down drone-prey Army Abrams tanks is probably a good idea as is most of the rest of the effort but the main responsibility would seem to be making sure we’re not giving up the proven old gear and capabilities before new ones are in place….the main area where Berger falters and TF Geezer/Get off my Lawn gets some wheelchair traction. What I see happening is, given no support whatsoever from the navel-gazing USN (another jockstrap outfit with no clear combat role in modern war beyond ferrying troops into safe/secured areas), this initiative will be watered down by best American democratic practices into a solution that works well for no one who will see combat and most likely to result in a single, half-assed 11-day fam course you get instead of predeployment libo on your way to a new Javelin-Infantry-Battalion, Special Operations Capable (btw, that’s JIBSOC…and by SOC, they mean all the SOC hardship&danger, none of the gear, pay and movie/book deals) to learn how to use a new ruck designed with crappy straps to carry 4 missiles, a poncho and a field stripped MRE….and march.

  18. Stephen Miller

    April 14, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    If we are going back to the Title 10 purpose of the Marine Corps as Mr. Holmes suggests – and is its roles as defined by law then one should not pick out only those parts that are convienent. It clearly states “seize and defend” – that first part seize is unfortunately largely qualified beyond recognition in the current FD2030. Marines may have the ability to occupy (given host concent) but “sieze” that has been simply given up. Even the “defend” is open to question. How well will 75 Marines with two antiship missiles defend? If its to be hit and run then by definition you run not defend. Going back to Title 10 – “conduct of land operations in support of the naval campaign”. A pretty broad mission- but land operations suggest the need for combined arms something the MAGTAF has proven to provide. Its not clear that FD will still offer those capabilities. Remember the
    Marine Defense Bn of WWII were the “defense” part of the Corps but the
    Marine Divisons with combined arms siezed those islands.

  19. Ben d'Mydogtags

    April 14, 2022 at 10:56 pm

    Posting remote-operated drone missile systems on those uninhabited (not resuppliable) islands, while keeping actual Marines afloat and poised to counter-attack – that might work. Stranding Marines on reefs and sandbars while outsourcing fire-support to big-Navy – that is just plain crazy. The ghosts of Tarawa are screaming right now.

  20. Jacksonian Libertarian

    April 15, 2022 at 9:02 am

    In an age of missiles that can destroy anything they can see no matter how armored, armored vehicles (Tanks) are dinosaurs on their way to extinction.

    Just look at the Russian’s dumb combined arms armies getting routed by Ukrainian Missilemen.

    Smart weapons have replaced dumb weapons on the battlefield, and smart generals will ignore the dinosaur generals that can’t see that fact.

  21. Smarg

    April 15, 2022 at 3:59 pm

    Unfortunately the Marines have been rendered a morally bankrupt, “woke” force ever since Obama made sexual deviancy a lawful endeavor.

    Their flag officers are garbage DC careerists that have lowered standards into laughable levels. The officers who do bravely speak out are jailed and humiliated. The Regime will use them in the coming civil war…”Just kill the white ones.”

  22. Frank A Caputo

    April 15, 2022 at 5:12 pm

    To all concerned, and as it sometimes appears, to those who are not concerned.

    Unfortunately, as I’ve read the Marine Corps Times articles on the changes “my” Marine Corps is undergoing, I fully agree with the General’s comments. 

    Many of you are too young and removed from our tenuous history to survive through many instances of “reducing” and even “eliminating” the United States Marine Corps. 

    In my time, (now, being 79 years old) I’m reminded of Eleanor Roosevelt’s comments and behind the scene efforts to displace, and even eliminate the Marine Corps; this “violent force” for its use to have “more humane” military efforts in the Worlds’ conflicts.

    Then, Korea happened.  Yes, every one of our Forces engaged took a severe “beating”. However, looking through from WW-ll at Iwo Jima, to the valiant Marine fighting forces, during Korea’s Inchon, then Viet Nam (which I was a part of), onto the “parodies” and embarrassments of our Nation’s conflicts through the last fifty years, we see the consistent failures of Civilian Leaders trying to control the efforts of our most valuable young aged military members, trained to be the best striking force the World has ever known.

    Our forces were directed and sent into conflicts with the most honorable ideals, only to disappoint American Citizens with the losses of their Sons and Daughters, our Marines and others, were disappointed by these efforts caused by the previously unknown, unplanned for consequences made by the decisions of Civilian Leaders.

    The most recent efforts for physically “Co-Training”, while incorporating Women, while not demoralizing, has taken away certain current concepts and a belief that Marine Trainees were to be prepared for more unique forms of combat with an adversary who are as “combat brutal” as a foe.  This current effort for traditional training is not equal; the mind set is not the same as previously experienced with the division of gender.  While it’s true, that Women can be as “brutal in certain combat roles”, as we experienced in Viet Nam and other places, I’m convinced the role for them in the Marine Corps should be even more specialized in certain MOS Specialties, and Force Ready. 

    Certain Marine Corps Times articles and editorials have sent messages to the Worlds’ “force ready” militaries that reducing the Marine Corps, while not less valiant as an honorable force of war, has become a “shell” for what it was known for throughout the World in past conflicts. The Marine Corps has always been the most powerful, elite, and feared fighting force this World had ever known. The Marine Corps has always given the American Citizenship a special pride in the capability of its Nation’s defenses. 

    To close, in my opinion:  Technologies that are available today, can be utilized by all of our forces.  However, the Human effort for a true strike force is obvious and primarily a physical decision. Some people just cannot suffer the burdens the Marines have endured throughout its history, physically or mentally.  The best part is, that a “Force Ready” Marine Corps is intelligent, equally capable to use coordinated technologies as easily as other Military Units, and a readiness with a higher degree in specialization for how to use them in a faceoff with a brutal enemy who has the same capabilities.

    It is unfortunate that too many of our Civilian Leaders have no concept of the horrors that evolve from Combat Experiences, because if they did, there really would not be a need for War.  With the availability a “Force Ready” Marine Corps, as the strike force it has always been regarded for being, it is as much of a deterrent as a major nuclear device. 

    Submitted with all due respect for those preceding me, and all those who will follow.

    Semper Fidelis,
    Frank A Caputo
    former E-4

  23. Dick

    April 16, 2022 at 3:41 am

    Who cares, our military is a genderless pack of faggots now. RIP Marine Corps.

  24. truthalwayswinsout

    April 16, 2022 at 4:36 am

    Communist China cannot feed itself. If you block sea access at the appropriate choke points any war will be over in 90 days.

    If Communist China has to pay a terrible price to gain sea access, the war will be over because the Communist Party will lose control of the country.

    The real problem we have is two fold. First get our so called friends such as Taiwan to pay 4% of their GDP instead of the paltry 2% they pay today. That will enable them to have enough weapons to destroy any force invading from the mainland and the survive long enough for allies in the region to respond.

    The second problem is to fire 70% of the admirals and generals in the military. This will almost immediately increase the effectiveness of the US military by 30% or more.

    The US military has a history or promoting dimwits who can’t fight and don’t know how to fight. Look at the Civil War, look at the entire first 2 years of WWII. Look at Vietnam. So many serious and terrible mistakes are made because our generals and admirals are nothing but ass kissers of the highest order.

  25. Ernest McReynolds

    April 22, 2022 at 8:20 pm

    The more stars, the more political. USMC 1967-1971

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